Alone With J


NRA could learn
from MLB’s plight

    Admittedly it might be a stretch... but then again, maybe not.
    At any rate, let us suggest today that there is an analogy of sorts between Major League Baseball and the National Rifle Association. At present it’s more of a stark divergence than it is anything even remotely resembling an alignment, but over time that could change. We can only hope that’s the case.
    Today’s NRA bears a striking resemblance the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of 20 years ago. We have been reminded of this constantly during this tumultuous week as MLB handed down its stiffest penalty to date — a 211-game suspension to Alex Rodriguez — for violations of the current labor agreement between the players’ union and ownership as it pertains to performance enhancing drugs.
    Many former MLB players, mostly those working for around-the-clock sports television networks, have given us a glimpse behind the curtain of labor discussions two decades earlier, especially as those talks pertained to the use of steroids and PEDs by baseball’s athletes.
   In the 1980s and ‘90s there was nearly universal opposition among union members, we’re now told, to any proposal or suggestion from MLB to test players for illegal steroid use and to penalize those players found to have gained a competitive edge by going outside those rules.
   In subsequent years, however, the steroid era in baseball took on a life of its own — and ultimately shed an increasingly unflattering light on the game. McGwire and Sosa, who only a few years earlier were being credited with saving the game with their down-the-stretch home run heroics, are now widely believed to have cheated it. Bonds and Palmeiro and Clemens, too, as well as others.
    Fast-forward to Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. On that single day, 13 players, three of whom took part in this year’s All Star game, were suspended from baseball. Most received 50-game bans; A-Rod’s 211-game suspension (under appeal) was the largest in the history of the game.
    The reaction from most current MLB players? A metaphorical standing ovation for Commissioner Bud Selig. They’re sick and tired, some players have said, of cheaters prospering; and of being lumped in with those cheaters even if they’ve never taken the “juice.” They want their sport cleaned up. Some sportswriters who have followed the latest PED controversy have gone so far as to suggest that the players’ union could — during off-season negotiations — finally be willing to accept even more stringent testing in an effort to clean up the sport once or for all.
    This is where the National Rifle Association — or, more correctly, its grassroots members —  could stand to learn a few lessons; the primary one being that ridding yourselves of bad apples is a good thing.
    The MLB Players’ Association for years clung to something akin to the “you’ll take my gun when you pry my cold, dead fingers from around it” mentality. But slowly, over the years, those players have come to understand that some rules are simply for the best ... for themselves, the game they love and for society as a whole.
    Why can’t gun owners grasp that concept?
    For years we’ve held the belief that attempts to impose minimal, reasonable restrictions on the purchase and ownership of guns should be welcomed with open arms by decent, law-abiding sportsmen and collectors.
    These individuals — representing an overwhelming majority of gun enthusiasts — would be inconvenienced only slightly by such restrictions, and the image of the NRA would be enhanced greatly if the organization did not fight tooth-and-nail against every reasonable proposal that is presented. It is difficult to comprehend why NRA members have been unwilling, or unable, to convey that message to the organization’s leadership.
    It took MLB the better part of two decades to get serious about steroid use, and the game suffered during the interim. But no one died needlessly while heels were collectively being dragged.
    The NRA cannot make that same claim.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat. He may be contacted at: